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Old 22-02-2008, 14:35   #1
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Exclamation Fires on Board

Fire on board a boat has got to be one of the most traumatic experience that I never want to go through!

I curious who's been through a fire on board? Or owned a boat, friend of a boat, known of a boat... you get the idea.

What caused the fire? What could have been done to prevent it? What could have been done to fight the fire more efficiently once it got started?

And in the spirit of selfishness, I'm extremely interested in Voyage Catamarans as that's what I own. I've heard somewhere that at least one of them burned to the waterline, though I'm not sure the circumstances.

On my own boat, we've got two automatic engine extinguishers, 4 standard extinguishers of various sizes and locations, and three of the new little spray can extinguishers (Tundra). My boat also doesn't have fuses on the main battery cables to the electrical panel. I'm adding those: (Blue Seas marine battery termnals).

Don't call me afraid of fires - I just don't want one on my boat - OK call me afraid of fires.
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Old 22-02-2008, 15:04   #2
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Not me, but.....

Number 1......

My father was in France (with his boat) and waved goodbye to a freind (and wife) setting off in a MOBO back home to Jersey. 5 minutes after setting off he came back around the pier head..........trailing black smoke like a WWII E-boat

Fortunately an empty pontoon to dock at and for them to evacute sharpish - but from the smoke rather than from the flames.

Chatting to my father on the pontoon whilst watching his boat pour smoke (and for the fire brigade to arrive) he explained that he thought something was "wrong" with an engine and lifted the hatch to have a looksee......black smoke poured out and he saw some serious flames. Dropped the hatch sharpish and came straight back ASAP as he immediately realised that he was in no position to tackle the fire. (and not the place to stop the engines nor easily drop anchor). Boat was gutted. albeit not to the waterline.

Cause? I recall it was reckoned to be a fractured fuel line spraying diesal over a hot turbo. Diesel will burn given the right circumstances - hey, it's a fuel . and lifting the hatch no doubt provided a good burst of oxygen to really kick start things! 10 minutes later the story may have ended differently.........

Boat and the 2 (Turbo Diesel) engines were well maintained.


Number 2......

Father turned down a trip on a workmates MOBO. His freind did not. Engines again caught fire - and lifting the hatches again fanned the flames beyond control. Beached the boat. on a rock - plenty of them around here Again, it was the smoke that folk could not cope with - plus the knowledge that the flames would arrive sooner or later! (possibly with a large bang!).

Can't remember if this one was petrol or Derv - but certainly the owner's idea of maintanence was not the same as Father's, hence him declining the trip.


Moral of the story? don't buy a MOBO

For me the lesson is have engine bay alarms and fire extingusihers that can be remotely operated. Of course I don't
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Old 22-02-2008, 15:18   #3
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Just a small fire on a boat I raced on. Something went wrong with the Dickinson style heater and flames were trailing down the bottom of the heater to the cabin sole. The owner was right by the heater. I thought I was doing good, as before he said anything I had already thought about where the extinguisher was and started to turn around to get it. My friend, whose career was Navy, slapped the extinguisher in my hand as I turned around, I passed it to the owner and the fire was put out. That training stuff works. It couldn't have taken me more than a couple of seconds to react, but in that time my Navy friend had already gotten the extinguisher. Impressed the hell out of me.

John
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Old 22-02-2008, 16:32   #4
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We had a fire the first or second season with our current boat. The fire was confined to the galley aroud our alcohol stove. We keep 3 or 4 fire extinguishers on board one of which is in the galley so it was quickly put out. To this day I am nervous using that stove.

Lori
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Old 22-02-2008, 19:23   #5
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I am sure that firemen with lots of practical experience can give you the best advice but from my own experience with smaller fires on board, they are usually a factor of poor maintenance and sloppy housekeeping by someone onboard.

Having taken numerous courses in M.E.D. (marine emergency duties) the best thing I can say is that it teaches you to understand Fires rather than fear the dangers. To be proactive and confident in yourself to understand the type of combustion and then aggressively fight that fire.

Always remember! A Fire needs these 3 things to survive; AIR/ HEAT / FUEL / …remove any one of those 3 components and the fire goes out. Simple as that!

I don’t know if they do now, but it would be great if marine colleges offered Fire fighting courses to yachties. Lots of practical tips on prevention, safety as well as actual practice in how to find that sweet-spot in a fire to easily put it out (and keep it out!). They are a great confidence booster!

Simple things like keeping a Fire Blanket module near the galley to contain and smother any cooking fire is a worthwhile investment and less of a mess than using an extinguisher.
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Old 22-02-2008, 21:42   #6
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We have automatic fire extinguishers in our engine compartments. Actually we have two automatic fire extinguishers in each compartment.

Fires need oxygen, and in an enclosed compartment, the automatic extinguishers are awesome. Just don't open the hatch for a while and let oxygen get to the fire, and don't go into the compartment until it has been well ventilated after the fire is out. You don't want to breath toxic fumes into your lungs.
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Old 22-02-2008, 22:43   #7
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Not had a fire myself but -

Have come across quite a number of fires on commercial boats through work but only two on pleasure sail boats where I knew the owners.

One was in the Pacific hundreds of miles from land - their battery charger caught alight even though, of course, it wasn't connected to shore power out there. It gave them a hell of a fright. It was located near the shore power connection in a "waterproof" cockpit locker. I believe it was likely salt getting into the innards that was the problem but couldn't be checked because as soon as they got the fire out they pulled the charger out and sent it to Davey Jones.

The second was a new yacht only a month or so old. The owner was refuelling a petrol fuelled (gasoline) portable generator in the cockpit and the petrol fumes drifted down and flashed off the cooker that was alight below in the galley. No one was hurt but the boat was burnt out.
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Old 22-02-2008, 23:07   #8
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Engine fires are usually the eaisest to deal with. The compartment can be closed and fire Extsr. released. Galley fires can be dangerouse and very quick at spreading and can easily block escape routes. Electrical fires are not so common. Shorts resulting in serious damage can be a result however and smoke can be extremly thick, chocking and toxic.
Refueling and Propane leaks are the most scary explosive and sadly all too common.
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Old 24-02-2008, 09:49   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knottygirlz View Post
We had a fire the first or second season with our current boat. The fire was confined to the galley aroud our alcohol stove. We keep 3 or 4 fire extinguishers on board one of which is in the galley so it was quickly put out. To this day I am nervous using that stove.

Lori
Get rid of that alcohol stove if you can. I used to have one on a 30 foot sail. They work great but they are sure dangerous beasts and really have no place on a boat given the other options available these days. My wife lost her eyebrows and a bit of bangs lighting that darn thing! Ohhh, the smell of burnt hair is nasty. Luckily only her pride was hurt.
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Old 24-02-2008, 10:16   #10
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Get rid of that alcohol stove if you can. I used to have one on a 30 foot sail. They work great but they are sure dangerous beasts and really have no place on a boat given the other options available these days. My wife lost her eyebrows and a bit of bangs lighting that darn thing! Ohhh, the smell of burnt hair is nasty. Luckily only her pride was hurt.
Hmmm... We cooked every single meal (plus breads) for 2.5 yrs on an alcohol stove. They're not any more dangerous than propane. Leave the alcohol on and build it up and you'll have a flame. Leave the propane on and build it up and you'll have a big, whooshing flame. Pretty similar. Both need to be used with the same caution.

As to fires, I have been through an advanced marine firefighting course where you had to handle real (ship size) hoses, find your way out of a "burning" boat simulator, put out fires with extinguishers, etc... We also were drilled on the "heat, oxygen, fuel" idea mentioned earlier. My wife has passed this course as well.

Fires are scary... definitely. But, checking any fear and getting right down to business putting the fire out (while not opening the engine room door! - feel for heat with your hand!) is the best way to be safe once one has started.

As with all marine safety, training and practice is the key to a good resoponse. The time to figure out how to do something is not while the emergency is happening.

These courses might be to the public. It's hard to tell since it's usually professional mariners in there. I took mine years ago at a business set up just for training people on fire fighting on ships. It was inside the Port Everglades terminal in Ft Lauderdale. Here is the link to the school:

Resolve Fire | Fire & Hazard Response, Inc.

You may be able to contract with them as a private person to take their courses.
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Old 24-02-2008, 10:36   #11
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I should add that...

THE COURSE WAS SO COOL!! It was a lot of fun and very interesting.
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Old 25-02-2008, 18:51   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spencer53 View Post
Get rid of that alcohol stove if you can. I used to have one on a 30 foot sail. They work great but they are sure dangerous beasts and really have no place on a boat given the other options available these days. My wife lost her eyebrows and a bit of bangs lighting that darn thing! Ohhh, the smell of burnt hair is nasty. Luckily only her pride was hurt.
We are in the process of gathering materials to build our next boat and the alcohol stove is out and we will be going with propane. Yes, it is similar, but with propane we can build in some safety switches and in fact, we have already purchased them.

I readily acknowledge that I should have learned more about the alcohol stove long before the fire. I had used it many times in the past without incident and cooked many meals similar to the one I was working on at the time of the fire. That is little comfort after the fact and even knowing more now I do not feel comfortable using it.

Lori
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Old 25-02-2008, 20:03   #13
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Quote:
Electrical fires are not so common.
Actually BoatUS says 80% of all fires are electrically based.

Half baked electrical systems poorly modified / installed by do it yourself know it alls is a serious problem. This is across all recreational boats not just Cruisers. It's a lot of small details that matter. It's mostly boats plugged in at the dock with no one aboard. It's not to minimize the other potential causes of fires while you are aboard or having fire extinguishers handy and more than the mandated minimum number but it's the big numbers that do happen.
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Old 25-02-2008, 22:10   #14
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I don't know if this counts - it was not a fire, but it almost was one - and it's a good reminder in keeping with Pblais previous post.

While we were getting our Privilege ready for delivery we were doing provisioning, cleaning, and a bunch of repairs. One evening I turned on a flexible Hella light at the nav station, and the thing fell apart in my hand - case, lens, bulb, connectors, all fell out on the nav station table.

I put the light back together which was a real pain, the parts fit loosely, wires went directly in to vampire taps on the bulb bracket. Who knows, the thing probably fell apart a dozen times before. Anyway, I finally went to bed, not thinking anything more of it.

The next morning when I got up I moved the light a few inches out of the way and started working on the days tasks. I started to smell something burning or melting. Looking at the light I just moved, there was smoke pouring out of it and the entire flexible stem of it was hot to the touch.

I tore the light fixture apart, but by now the wire insulation had melted inside the stem and was making a nice heater element. Our nav station switch panel bulkhead, where the light was mounted, has a removable top - no screws fortunately. I ripped this cover open, and quickly traced where the wires were going. Fortunately the wires were in plain sight and clear of anything else, so I grabbed the ground wire and pulled it out of it's connector as quickly as I could (all grounds go to a common post with a big hand screw, so this was easy, quick, and reasonable). By this time the wires were pretty crispy back along the wood paneling.

As I got my wire cutters to clip out the +12 wire, I wondered why the fuse didn't blow. Yeah, you guessed it - previous owner, or whoever installed the light, didn't bother with a fuse. There was plenty of room for one, no excuse at all.

I'm sure I put the light together wrong somehow the night before. But I seriously got lucky in that the short condition didn't occur until the next morning when I moved it.

While showing one of the delivery crew what happened, he said something along the lines of "Oh yeah, the Hella lights always fall apart like that". I haven't replaced the light yet, but when I do, it won't be a Hella.

Moral of the story is pretty obvious: Do not install any electrical without a proper fuse, placed as close to the power source as possible.

It just doesn't make sense to jeopardize your entire boat over a $3 part!
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Old 25-02-2008, 22:34   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David_Old_Jersey View Post
Not me, but.....

Number 1......

My father was in France (with his boat) and waved goodbye to a freind (and wife) setting off in a MOBO back home to Jersey. 5 minutes after setting off he came back around the pier head..........trailing black smoke like a WWII E-boat

Fortunately an empty pontoon to dock at and for them to evacute sharpish - but from the smoke rather than from the flames.

Chatting to my father on the pontoon whilst watching his boat pour smoke (and for the fire brigade to arrive) he explained that he thought something was "wrong" with an engine and lifted the hatch to have a looksee......black smoke poured out and he saw some serious flames. Dropped the hatch sharpish and came straight back ASAP as he immediately realised that he was in no position to tackle the fire. (and not the place to stop the engines nor easily drop anchor). Boat was gutted. albeit not to the waterline.

Cause? I recall it was reckoned to be a fractured fuel line spraying diesal over a hot turbo. Diesel will burn given the right circumstances - hey, it's a fuel . and lifting the hatch no doubt provided a good burst of oxygen to really kick start things! 10 minutes later the story may have ended differently.........

Boat and the 2 (Turbo Diesel) engines were well maintained.


Number 2......

Father turned down a trip on a workmates MOBO. His freind did not. Engines again caught fire - and lifting the hatches again fanned the flames beyond control. Beached the boat. on a rock - plenty of them around here Again, it was the smoke that folk could not cope with - plus the knowledge that the flames would arrive sooner or later! (possibly with a large bang!).

Can't remember if this one was petrol or Derv - but certainly the owner's idea of maintanence was not the same as Father's, hence him declining the trip.


Moral of the story? don't buy a MOBO

For me the lesson is have engine bay alarms and fire extingusihers that can be remotely operated. Of course I don't
Other than an abbreviation for a Motherboard, what is a MOBO?
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